One day this past summer, I was driving a friend home, and he was hungry. I stopped at a pizzeria, and he bought a meatball parm hero that he began eating on the drive. At one point, he took a bite, and a small piece of meatball, along with some sauce and oil, dropped out of the sandwich and onto his shirt. He immediately tried wiping it off with a napkin and was understandably upset because he thought his shirt might be permanently stained.
As I glanced over at him, a thought popped into my head. Yes, he was justifiably concerned that his shirt may be ruined. However, what about the other consequences of that meatball hero? He was eating a sandwich filled with sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Although these substances would increase his risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, he did not seem disturbed about these potential health outcomes. Why was that? Why was he more concerned about what the sandwich did to his shirt than what it could potentially do to his health?
The major reason lies in the various types of consequences. His stained shirt was an immediate consequence. It happened at the time he was eating it, was quite obvious, and thus connected to the sandwich. However, the possible adverse health consequences mentioned are not so apparent. If they are going to occur, they will likely not arise for five, ten, or even twenty years. Those would be considered delayed consequences, occurring so far into the future that it would be exceedingly difficult to link them to the sandwich.
Immediate consequences clearly have an enormous difference in impact compared to delayed consequences. Let us imagine that the opposite was possible for a moment—that immediately after eating the sandwich, my friend suffered a heart attack. If this was the case, I could pretty much guarantee that he would never eat a meatball parm hero again.
I realize that I’ve made a bit of a stretch here. Eating a single unhealthy meal is not going to have unfavorable health effects, even after years have passed. However, consistently consuming unhealthy foods will most certainly increase the risk of poor health. The impact of each meal will add up over time until the outcomes become apparent.
Please remember the difference between immediate and delayed consequences and their importance in your life. Just some food for thought (pun intended).
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you enjoyed it and found it informative. If you know of anyone who may benefit, please feel free to share it.